Funny thing about playing electronic music live – especially if you’re a one-man band like San Sarec – no matter what you do or how you do it, there’s always the chance that it’s going to come off as a high-falutin’ karaoke show. Nat Rabb (San Sarec) did about all he could to keep the crowd from thinking that, and it sort of worked. There he was, a shortish, dark-haired New Yorker-type surrounded by keyboards and other electronic gear, dancing and prancing, slapping a board with drumsticks while grasping a microphone, trying as hard as he could to get the patrons at The Waiting Room last night to get off their asses and dance. By the end of his house/club/electronica set played in the dark, he managed to at least get them off their asses, but only a couple girls were actually dancing. Although the music was pure club (Pet Shop Boys meets your favorite house DJ meets electro-clash), my girlfriend still fell asleep during his set (literally). Highlight: A revved-up version of Bowie’s “Teenage Wildlife,” with Rabb providing a spot-on vocal match of the thin white duke.
Junior Boys was another story all together. A trio that included a real, live drummer, frontman/vocalist Jeremy Greenspan on guitar and bass, and Matt Didemus manning a rack of keyboards and other technology, there was no mistaking them for anything other than the dance-flavored rock band that they are. Greenspan wasn’t waiting for the house to demurely get on their feet – he told them to get up to the stage before he began his set. “You paid to get in here. You’re going to have more fun in here than back there,” he said, pointing at the back of the bar. Most of the crowd of 70 or so reluctantly surrounded the stage, but that didn’t mean they were going to dance. Instead, they did the usual stand-and-shrug-to-the-beat thing that Omaha is famous for. Greenspan didn’t seem to mind.
While I like their recent album, So This Is Goodbye, I’ve always felt that the recording sounded somewhat hollow and lifeless at times. That problem was mostly solved on stage, where the band filled in the hollow points with extra instrumentation. Greenspan, who talks like your slightly nasal neighbor when he tells stories between songs (like the one about how the last time they came to Omaha their bus driver pissed all over a birthday cake before the lucky recipient ate it), sings like the second coming of Bryan Ferry with a voice that’s strangely, surprisingly willowy. Meanwhile, Didemus spent the set poking at technology with one hand while smoking with the other, looking like a dark-haired version of Phillip Seymour Hoffman. At one point, I think he was manipulating the sound files with a (computer) mouse, swaying slightly to the beat the whole time. Funny.
Like The Faint concert held at The Waiting Room a month or so ago, the bass was chest-crushingly loud, as if it was coughing for you from deep inside your lungs. There was no sleeping through this set. And while most of the music sounded markedly better live than on CD, my favorite track off the record, “In the Morning,” was disappointingly tame, thanks to a shift in the mix that pushed the technology below the overpowering, omnipresent bass.
Tonight at The Waiting Room, the return of Mark Mallman. Who remembers the last time he played in Omaha (read my review here)? Let’s hope a few more people show up this time. Mallman’s out supporting a new album, Seven Years. Opening the show is everyone’s favorite Omaha pop-rock combo The Third Men. $7, 9 p.m.
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